Thursday, 22 June 2017

Macbeth leaves Scotland

I’ve an afternoon flight. I could get a couple of hours in town. But I really can’t be arsed. What would I do with my luggage, anyway?

I spend the morning watching crap TV in my hotel room. Then check out at noon exactly. Before that just long enough to be annoying walk. It really is annoying with my full set of luggage.

Strictly speaking, I’m a little too early to check in my bag. But the nice lady at the counter lets me do it, anyway. Great. I don’t have to lug all that crap around with me anymore. I shouldn’t have brought so many books. But it’s almost impossible to guess how many I’ll need.

I get myself a sarnie for the plane and an Observer for Dolores in WH Smiths. I say it’s for Dolores, but I’ll be reading it, too.

Edinburgh airport has the luxury of a Wetherspoons both airside and landside. I choose the latter. I’ve got a couple of hours to kill. What better place to get out the AK47 and go crazy? Spraying that bastard time with a full clip.

Well blow me. They’ve got a Mild on:

Strahaven Craigmill Mild, 3.5%, £3.85
This is weird. Getting Mild in an airport. And a Scottish Mild, at that. Dry and slightly malty. A real easy drinker.

Two youths sat behind me keep playing music. A bloke in his 60’s takes exception to it. “What are you doing? People are trying to eat and drink here.”

It doesn’t go down well with the lads. “I’m off to Ibiza. What are you doing?” As if that somehow explains their behaviour. This could turn nasty. I imagine glasses and fists flying. But after a while of arguing across the bar, things calm down. And the lads get back to knocking back pints of cheap Lager.

Time for another pint and some scran.

Stewart Brewing Edinburgh Gold, 4.8%, £3.85
It is a lovely clear gold colour. Mmm that’s nice. Soft and with a fair bit of what taste like English hops, also a little underlying sweetness.

I’m tempted to order an all day brunch. But that would be just too much. I can’t eat one every day I’m here. I’m tempted by the fish and chips, but eventually plump for beef and ale pie. It’s a proper pie, not stew with a pastry lid. If you can’t hold it in your hand, it isn’t a pie.

I while away the hours reading the paper and slowly sucking down a few pints. Then it’s time to go through security. Which thankfully doesn’t have much of a queue.

A better flight than on the way out. When all they served was a piece of cake. This time it’s an egg sandwich.

Bit of a queue again at Schiphol passport control. But I suppose that does mean I spent less time by the carousel waiting for my bag to appear.

I’m knacked, so I take a taxi home. What an extravagant git I am.

Buy my new Scottish book. It's why was in Scotland.

The Turnhouse
Adjacent to Security, First floor food court. Landside
Tel: 0131 344 3030

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Let’s Brew Wednesday - 1899 Barclay Perkins X

You’re probably thinking: why is he still publishing Mild recipes when it’s almost the end of June? Because I can.

That’s the great thing about being your own man, without any editor or publisher to oblige. I can do what the hell I want, when I want to do continuing to roll through Barclay Perkins X Ale recipes until I get to the 1930’s.

At first glance, this looks pretty similar to the 1887 recipe. Though on closer inspection there have been some significant changes. The most obvious being that the flaked rice has been replaced by flaked maize. Presumably on cost grounds.

The sugar content has increased from 12.5% to 18.45%. If only I knew for certain what type of sugar it was. Whereas in the last recipe I was fairly confident about my guess of No. 1 invert, this time I’m not so sure. The brewing record is no more specific than “Sacch.”. But I know this is about when Mild started turning darker. So it’s possible that the sugar was No. 3. Though it could also have been something else. There’s no way of knowing for sure.

I’m 100% sure that the Goldings in this recipe are Goldings, because it specifically says so in the brewing record. The other two hops don’t get more specific than MK and American.

Note that the boil time has increased again. It’s most confusing, this jumping around in the length of the boil. Absolutely no idea why they kept changing it.

1899 Barclay Perkins X Ale
pale malt 7.75 lb 70.45%
crystal malt 0.25 lb 2.27%
flaked maize 1.00 lb 9.09%
No. 3 invert sugar 2.00 lb 18.18%
Cluster 120 mins 1.00 oz
Fuggles 120 mins 0.25 oz
Fuggles 60 mins 1.25 oz
Goldings 30 mins 1.25 oz
OG 1054.7
FG 1009.4
ABV 5.99
Apparent attenuation 82.82%
IBU 52
SRM 14
Mash at 150º F
Sparge at 168º F
Boil time 120 minutes
pitching temp 61º F
Yeast Wyeast 1099 Whitbread Ale

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Macbeth comes back to Edinburgh

I have a bit of a lie in. I hung out the do not disturb sign last night. No chance of a chambermaid bumbling in on me in my underscuds.

It’s almost noon when I pull myself away from the TV and head on to the tram stop. Did I mention that my hotel is just far enough away from the airport for the walk to be annoying?

In town, I get a sudden craving for a bacon butty. Oh look, there’s a Greggs. “A bacon sandwich, please.” “Sorry, we don’t do those after eleven.” You what? That’s just crazy. Especially at the weekend. My bacon craving is unfulfilled. At least for the moment.

I amble towards the city centre along Princes Street. Until I get to Frederick Street, where I make a left. Not randomly. Oh, no. I have a plan. Actually, not that different from Thursday’s plan. I plan dining in style again. At the other city centre Wetherspoons, The Standing Order.

Inside, it’s more like standing room only. I’m on my second round of the rooms when I finally find a seat. I stick my coat on a chair and head to the bar. Where I order the strongest beer on offer and an all-day brunch.

Wooha IPA, 6.2% ABV, £3.19
Unfined, it says on the pump clip, which explains the haze. At least it isn’t total murk. It’s the grapefruit juice sort of IPA, not that bitter, mind. Pleasant enough and reasonably strong.

I’m totally free today, so I’ll just be slowly walking around town and doing a little light shopping. Then find a pub where I can watch Scotland England without getting killed.

The brunch is much better today. More nicely presented and the yolks are runny.

Good day at the Scottish Brewing Archive yesterday. I took almost 15,00 photographs in five hours. Not sure the Majority Ale book has much useful in it, really. Though I’m dead excited about the notebook of the Copenhagen trip. And the Usher’s records of the 1960’s and 1970’s. The late Younger’s records, on the other hand, were a bit rubbish, with almost nothing filled in. I’ll be busy for weeks – if not months – going through it all.

Thornbridge Jaipur, 5.9%, £3.10
Thought I’d play relatively safe. Quite bitter. And twiggy hop flavoured. Tastes different to how I remember ii. Less fruity. Much more English tasting than I expected.

Three middle-aged Scottish women sitting on the next table are discussing food. “I don’t like feta cheese.” “I do like couscous.” “How can you be bothered to boil an egg every morning?”

Scotland are playing Italy at rugby. Where is it? It looks rather hot. And the stadium isn’t that full. Ah, it’s Singapore. Why the hell are they playing there?

I only stay for the two. I fancy a couple in the Abbotsford, down at the end of Rose Street. On the way down I notice they’re putting up an England flag in the window of a pub. Could be a good spot to watch the game later.

The Abbotsford is looking as gorgeous as ever. I take a seat at the bar.

Windswept Wolf, 6% ABV, £4.40
Looks lovely: black with a tight, cream-coloured head. Served through a tall font. Dark and Strong Scottish Ale it’s billed as. Sweetish and malty. It makes a nice change of pace.

Impressive array of malts above the pot shelf. Which seem to be arranged alphabetically: Aberlour, Ardbeg, Arran, Auchentoshan, etc.

This is a proper pub. Just the sound of conversation. There’s a classic Scottish island bar. Odd that they have five tall fonts and one handpull. Maybe that’s for English beer. All those on tall fonts are Scottish.

Where will I watch the game? If the worst comes to the worst, I can always go back to the Wetherspoons. They have a big screen there.

No-one but me seems to be drinking the cask. Most punters are ordering Tennent’s.

Orkney Blast, 6% ABV
Billed as an IPA Barleywine hybrid. I’ve no effing idea what that means. And writing Barley Wine as one word really isn’t on this side of the Atlantic. Pretty pale and pretty clear. Apart from the fizzing, not that unlike a pint of Tennent’s the bloke to my right is supping. A US hop thing going on, but also a sticky malt sweetness. Not getting the IPA bit. More like a lower ABV Barley Wine. Quite nice, mind, and full of the alcoholy umph I like.

Time to watch the footy. I make my way back down Rose Street to Milnes. The pub where I’d seen them putting up the England flag. It’s very crowded, but I manage to squeeze my way to the bar to get a pint, then squeeze my way to a spot where I can see a TV. I’ve got the time mixed up and the first half is already 20 minutes in.

England are in control, but not really looking like scoring. Everyone in the pub gets very excited on the rare occasions Scotland get anywhere near England’s goal. It’s scoreless at half time. The second half is much like the first, with England knocking the ball around fairly harmlessly.

Bum. England are bringing on Oxlade-Chamberlain. One of those Arsenal lightweight forwards who always look out of their depth at the highest level. Why the hell did they bring him on? He must have heard my thoughts, because he wriggles past several defenders and sticks the ball past the goalkeeper. Bastard. Just trying to prove me wrong. I manage to contain my emotions and show no outward sign of joy.

England look like they’re coasting to a win. Just 10 minutes to go. Until they give away a free kick just outside the penalty box. The bastard Scot who takes it curves the ball around the wall and into the top right corner. Everyone in the pub goes mental. Except me. Bastards.

A couple of minutes later England give away another free kick in an even better position. This time the ball goes in the top left corner. The sound in the pub is totally deafening. Everyone is going totally apeshit. Except me.

As the final minutes of the game tick by, it looks like England are stuffed. Then, with virtually the last kick of the game, Harry Kane coolly sidefoots a cross into the bottom corner. Everyone in the pub is totally silent. Except me. I’ve been so resolved to England effing it up, that I can’t contain a little yelp of joy. No the best idea in the circumstances.

Luckily, everyone is too busy crying into their beer to have noticed. I finish my pint and leave before anyone comes to their senses.

I make it an early night. I can’t cope with any more excitement. I watch England play Argentina at rugby somewhere in the Andean foothills. England score a try with just seconds to go to win the game. Seems a recurring theme today.

Buy my new Scottish book. It's why was in Scotland.

The Standing Order

62-66 George St
Midlothian EH2 2LR.

Abbotsford Bar & Restaurant
3-5 Rose Street, Edinburgh,
Midlothian EH2 2PR.
+44 131 225 5276

Milnes of Rose Street
21-25 Rose St,
Edinburgh EH2 2PR.
Tel: +44 131 225 6738

Monday, 19 June 2017

Majority Ale

One of the documents I was most interested in laying my hands on at thr Scottish Brewing Archive was something called "Majority Ale notebook".

Brewing a beer on the birth of an heir was a long tradition amongst domestic brewers. The beer would be carefully stored away and only broached when the child reached majority at age 21.

I thought that the practice had died out along with domestic brewing at the end of the 19th century. But William Younger continued to brew Majority Ales for members of the family not just in the 19th century, but right up until 1960.

Much like domestic brewers, William Younger brewed a very high gravity beer – between 1120º and 1150º - which they racked into casks and then stored away carefully. When the lucky child’s 21st birthday rolled around, some of the beer was bottled. The remainder was either racked into a smaller cask or used to fill up another cask of the same brew.

They kept a really close eye on each cask, a notebook keeping track of each one: when it was brewed, when beer was drawn off and bottled. Looking at this document, it becomes clear that they didn’t keep each brew totally separate. Sometimes they would fill up a cask with beer from an older brew. This way, I suppose, they could guarantee that the beer would be at least 21 years old when consumed.

They hung onto bottles for many, many decades. A stock list from 1967 includes Majority Ales brewed in 1866, 1895, 1897 and 1898. In all, they still had bottles of sixteen vintages of Majority Ale.

I wonder what happened to all those bottles?

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Scottish colours

Just a quick post. Something I harvested at the Scottish Brewing Archive on my recent visit.

It's quite a handy document. It has the brewery specifications of all the beers brewed and William Younger's Holyrood Brewery and William McEwan's Fountain Brewery. Lost of useful information about the beers. But tehre's one little problem: I don't no when exactly it's referring to.

The document is a bunch of loose leaves which was the response to an enquiry to a former brewer. The covering letter is dated 23rd June 2001. But it must refer to much earlier because the Holyrood Brewery closed in 1986. It also mentions No. 1, which I think was discontinued well before Holyrood closed. My guess would be 1960's or 1970's.

It's another demonstration of how crazy the Scots were about colouring beer.

Fountain Beers
Beer colour (EBC)
B5/A (BL) 30
XXPS (Btg) 24
No 3 (Btg) 48
H5/B 24
4/A 26
H2/B 95
E2/B 80
XXP (P5/A) 30
G5/A (D5/A) 80
XXP (Pale) 18
XXP (P70/-) 20
3 L 65
P80/- 25
BE2/B 80
1 BR 75
3 BR 55
1 BR 90
200/- B 80
NBA 52
Holyrood and Fountain beer specification sheets held at the Scottish Brewing Archive, document number WY/6/1/8/1.

NBA = Newcastle Brown Ale.

Holyrood Beers
Beer colour
* S/Stout 270
Harp (bott) 9
DCA 70
DBS 270
PA 24
K 5/A 48
** BA 85
Harp (CT) 9
5/B 25
Holyrood and Fountain beer specification sheets held at the Scottish Brewing Archive, document number WY/6/1/8/1.

There's a lovely note under this second table:

* SS is brewed at a colour of 600° - when blended with reprocessed beer, the final colour is 270°
** BA is brewed at a colour of 220° - when blended reprocessed beer, the final colour is 85°

"Reprocessed beer" is a euphemism for returned beer and all sorts of other shit. It must have formed a large pecentage of the blend, given that it's more than halved the colour value.

DCA = Double Century Ale.
DSB = Double Brown Stout.
BA = Brown Ale.

I'm amazed at how many different products they had. Most Scottish breweries only had half a dozen.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Macbeth comes to Glasgow

I’m a bit later at Waverley Station than I’d hoped. Missing the 9:30 train to Glasgow I’d planned to take. It doesn’t help that the nearest tram stop is quite a walk from the station.

But the next train is only 15 minutes later. Meaning I have time to buy two bacon baps. They’ll be my breakfast. On the train.

I forgot to buy a drink to accompany my salted grease. Luckily a chirpy young man comes around with a trolley and I can get myself a cup of tea to wash the food down.

This is a new train route for me. And, for the most part, a very attractive one, through verdant pastures bounded by craggy hills. It’s all very green. Then again, it is raining. And looks like it has been for the last couple of hundred years.

It’s a short hop on the subway from Queen Street Station to Kelvinhall, closest stop to the Scottish Brewing Archive. They seem to have poshed the subway stations up. Though there is still that strange smell down on the platforms.

The archive’s surroundings have changed quite a bit. The neighbouring flour mill has been replaced by student flats. Which probably explains all the young Chinese women on the streets on my way here.

I’ve requested 34 documents. Should keep me busy for most of the day. The nice young lady who is the archivist today already has the first batch ready. I’ve six hours to get through them all. Meaning I’ve got fewer than ten minutes per document. Plenty. I hope.

While I’m busy with my snapping marathon a few students trickle in and out. Mostly young women, who look at a few documents, photographing them on their phones and making notes. All in a leisurely way, unhurried way. I barely notice, busy as I am hacking rocks from the coal face.

At 13:30 I’m through everything they’ve brought up. “The next lot will be here around two.” The nice young lady says. I retreat to the lounge for a glass of water and a read of a history magazine. Then at two, I get out my pickaxe again.

I feel quite sorry for the archivist when TU/6/9/1 appears. It’s a loose-leaf brewing book that’s almost the same size as her. And is probably heavier. I can barely lift the thing.

As usual, I don’t waste much time studying the documents. Just photograph them and move on to the next. Some are notebooks where I need to snap every page. Others are brewing book where just a few sample pages will suffice.

I’m surprised when at 16:00 the nice young lady says: “That’s the last one.” But also happy, despite my aching back and blackened fingers. I’ve taken 1,476 photos in 5 hours. 4.5 hours if you allow for my break. Not bad going at all. Though it will take me months to process everything.

I’m meeting Robbie Pickering in the Three Judges ad 17:00. I get there pretty early – 16:15. I can barely get through the door. There some sort of do on. Is it a wake? Lots of people are wearing black. I wriggle my way to the bar and get myself a pint.

I eventually find a seat in a corner and read the paper and occasionally sip my beer. It’s very soothing.

Robbie turns up half an hour later. He comes over with two pints of Loch Lomond Stout, one for each of us. “You look like you need a beer.” He explains.

It’s a lovely beer, bible black and beautifully burnt. So nice, that I go to the bar and buy two more pints.

The landlady comes by and says we’re welcome to help ourselves to sandwiches from the buffet. Thee wake, or whatever it was, hasn’t got through all their food. I tuck in enthusiastically.

“Do you fancy a pint of Bass?” Robbie asks. “Oh, yes, please. Not had it for ages.”

I let him lead the way. He knows this part of Glasgow well. We’re headed to Tennent's. When I first spot the sign, I assume it’s the brewery name. It isn’t. It really is the name of the pub. Evidently it used to be run by someone called Tennent. And yes, he was related to the brewing family.

It’s pretty crowded in here, too. Robbie comes back with two lovely looking pints.

I take a large draught of my Bass. Where’s the farty smell? I wonder. It’s not a bad pint. Just doesn’t really taste like Bass.

“Do you want to try mine?” Robbie enquires. I’d assumed we both had Bass. Our pints look much the same, but his is Marstons Pedigree. They taste pretty different, mind. The Bass being much drier.

With no seat in sight, vertical drinking it is. The last thing I want, more standing. I’ve been on my feet most of the day. I’m not 18 any more. Nor 50, which I’d take, given the offer. I’m just thankful I can still stand unaided.

“What about a curry?” You don’t have to ask me that twice. Especially as eating a curry pretty much guarantees sitting down. We go to Ashoka, which is just around the corner.

They have some interesting cross-cultural items on the menu. Like Haggis Pakora. “It’s better than it sounds.” Robbie assures me. He’s right. Even if it is rather odd.

I order Pardesi Paneer and a nan. Both are pretty good, though the curry could have been hotter. I wish I’d known earlier about the curry. I wouldn’t have been so gungho with the sarnies.

After we’ve eaten, I head back to Queen Street Station on the subway. I don’t want to get back too late.

Entering the concourse, I swim against the stream of girls in miniskirts and makeup, in town for a big Friday night out. A cheering sight, youngsters in search of fun. All I’m looking for right now is the quickest route to my bed.

I leave the train at Haymarket. It’s closer to the airport than Waverley. And the tram stop is right next to the station.

I’m in bed by 22:00. Though tomorrow is a totally free day. Nothing to do, other than find a pub where I can watch Scotland play England without getting killed.

Buy my new Scottish book. It's why was in Scotland.

Three Judges
141 Dumbarton Road,
Partick, Glasgow G11 6PR.

Tennent's Bar
191 Byres Rd,
Glasgow G12 8TN, UK

Ashoka Ashton Lane
19 Ashton Ln,
Glasgow G12 8SJ, UK

Friday, 16 June 2017

Notes of a visit to the breweries of Messrs. Jacobsen Senr. & Junr. Copenhagen Sept 1881.

Here are the first fruits of my recent trip to the Scottish Brewing Archive in Glasgow. It's from one of the documents I was most excited about looking at.

Because it details more of the strange relationship between William Younger of Edinburgh and the Jacobsens who owned Carlsberg. In 1867 and 1868 Karl Jacobsen, or Jacobsen Junior, spent time at Younger's in an apprenticeship. Clearly the relationship between the breweries didn't end there, as a delegation from Younger visited Copenhagen in 1881.

These are the dates of the trip:

"Notes of a visit to the breweries of Messrs. Jacobsen Senr. & Junr. Copenhagen Sept 1881.

by Mr. William McConran accompanied by Mr. Andrew Kerr Architect.

Sailed from Leith on Sept 1st at 6pm per "S.S. Stettin" arrived in Copenhagen on Monday 5th at 6pm. Visited Old Carlsberg brewery on Tuesday 6, Wednesday 7th, Thursday 8th.
Visited Valby on 6th, 7th & 8th.
Visited New Carlsberg on 6th & 7th.
Visited Alliance Beer Bottling and Soda Water works on Thursday 8th Sept.

Sailed from Copenhagen per SS Stettin on Friday 9th Sept at 9am arrived in Leith on Monday the 12th at 6am, back to Abbey Brewery at 7.30 am Sept 12th 1881."
Notebook held at the Scottish Brewing Archive, document number WY/6/1/1/11.
Interesting that the outward journey took five days, the return just three. And that's dedication to the job turning up at work just 90 minutes after landing back in Scotland.

They brought back a rather odd collection of items with them:

"Brought from Copenhagen to the brewery, a box containing ten pint bottles of Pilsner Lager beer brewed at the Svanholm brewery and bottled by the Alliance Coy. this beer was not Pasteurised, a sample of the malting floor of the Valby brewery (Pierre Lithographique) a sample of Saaz hops from C Jacobsen Junr. as used in the Valby brewery, 2 lager beer cask shives as used in Old Carlsberg and Valby, a sample of French resin as used in Old Carlsberg, a sampleof the brick employed in constructing the new lager cellars and ice house in Valby brewery."
Notebook held at the Scottish Brewing Archive, document number WY/6/1/1/11.
The bottles of beer, fair enough, but samples of bricks? It's not as mad as it sounds. Judging by the lengthy description of the malt house and ice house, it sounds as if looking at them was one of the main purposes of the visit.

Here's a description of the location of the three Carlsberg breweries:

"Old Carlsberg brewery, the property of Mr. Jacobsen Snr. is the original brewery of the three, viz. Old and New Carlsberg, and Valby. They are situated close to each other, quite in the country and about half a mile south from the sea, the declivity to the sea is very small, but this is no great inconvenience as they have no tides on the Danish shores. The evil is a light grey dry sand, varying from twenty to thirty feet with a subevil of ordinary clay."
Notebook held at the Scottish Brewing Archive, document number WY/6/1/1/11.
If you've been to the Carlsberg site you'll know that it's now far away from the countryside.

There are some descriptions of the brewing process, thankfully. Though sadly not of the mashing process. I wonder if Mr. Stenhouse's report is also in the archive?

"For the mash house manipulations a full report is contained in Mr. Stenhouse's report in June 1881.

Sparging heat 166º F.

The grains are not removed from the No. 2 mash tun until they are fairly dry. They are removed from the brewery premises completely and at once, and as to the spent hops the same rule is rigidly enforced. When any grains or spent hops are unavoidably spilt on the ground, they are at once lifted and removed, the same applies to any horse droppings left on the premises, they are not flushed into drains withe a jet of water, and indeed it appears incredible the scrupulous cleanliness taken in this matter."
Notebook held at the Scottish Brewing Archive, document number WY/6/1/1/11.
 How obsessive, eh, properly cleaning up all the horse shit from the yard? Those crazy continentals.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Second-generation punk

I recently gave a bizarre talk about lost beer styles and punk rock in 1976.

Researching for the music chunk, I listened to the early records of The Damned, The Clash and the Sex pistols. I already had it all on my punk playlist (I also have a 1960’s punk playlist, that’s how sad I am), it struck me how diverse their music was, but also how more sophisticated than its raw energy implied. Their looks were pretty different, too.

That was the class of 1976. The bands that came along after them – I won’t name any names here – the ones that were inspired by the first generation of punk bands. I never liked any of them. Just like the audience, they’d adopted a uniform. In this case a musical rather than sartorial one. Breakneck, simplistic songs, shouted with faux angst.

Seeing the beermat below on an Amsterdam bar recently, this popped into my head: second-generation punk.

There’s a lot of it about.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Let’s Brew Wednesday - 1880 Barclay Perkins X

And here’s the X Ale to go with the XX Ale. They really do go together, as they were the two parts of a parti-gyle.

Which is going to make my life easy. Everything I said about the XX in terms of grist and hopping also applies to this beer.

Despite being the smaller sibling, this beer still packs a fair punch. It’s well north of 5% ABV, but it’s the IBUs that most intrigued me. They’re exactly the same as for XX, even though I’ve scaled the quantity down perfectly correctly. It interested me, at least.

Not really much more to say. Just enjoy the recipe. And drink Mild!

1880 Barclay Perkins X Ale
pale malt 10.75 lb 86.00%
No. 1 invert sugar 1.75 lb 14.00%
Cluster 90 min 3.50 oz
Fuggles 60 mins 2.00 oz
Fuggles 30 mins 2.00 oz
OG 1060.4
FG 1018
ABV 5.61
Apparent attenuation 70.20%
IBU 106
SRM 7.5
Mash at 160º F
Sparge at 170º F
Boil time 90 minutes
pitching temp 59º F
Yeast Wyeast 1099 Whitbread Ale

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Macbeth comes to Edinburgh

I rise early. Even earlier than for work. My flight being at 9:20, I need to be in the airport for 7:20.

At least that’s what Schiphol is still advising. Get there two hours in advance (three hours for intercontinental flights) if you want to be sure of making your flight. After some recent experiences at Schiphol, I’m taking no chances.

Last time here, after having queued up for 30 minutes, I was told while checking in that I could have used the priority lane. So I give it a whirl. No problems. I’m in the much shorter priority queue for security. I’m through in ten minutes, including the traditional extra inspection of my trolley bag. It always gets pulled out, for some reason.

My flight departs from pier D. And I’ve plenty of time. Time a plenty to drop by the Irish pub for a quick Murphy’s Stout and Jamesons whiskey. I also pick up a bacon and egg sandwich, which I eat on my way to the pub. It’s my breakfast.

The flight is, thankfully, uneventful. And on time. About.

It’s not far to my hotel. I’m stopping out at the airport as it was so effing extortionate in the city centre. And it still wasn’t cheap here. It’s long before the official check-in time of 3pm when I troll up. But I can go to my room straight away. Which is great. I had been worrying that I’d need to leave my bags, head off into town, then return to move everything to my room.

After a bit of arranging shit – mostly switching on my laptop and accessing the internet - I take the tram into town. I’ve got quite a bit of shit with me for this evening’s talk: laptop and a dozen or so books I’m hoping to flog.

I start at the Playfair, a Wetherspoons in a shopping centre. Why? Because it’s close to where the tram terminates. And I want to get some cheap food inside me. I’m not made of effing money. And I need plenty of ballast for a long day.

Soon I’m happily sat behind a pint and an all day brunch. I’m not at the bar, but at a high table. Why? There are no seats at the bar in Wetherspoons. The eggs aren’t very well cooked. The yokes are hard. Oh well. There’s no toast to mop it up, anyway.

The place is full of the usual odd mixture that you find in Wetherspoons. Grannies drinking tea, grandads drinking John Smiths Smooth, two women of indeterminate age tapping on their phones in front of half pints of white wine, a young couple eating, daytime drinkers knocking back pint after pint of Lager. And me. Not sure which type of customer I count as.

I don’t linger that long. Things to do, beer to drink. I’m headed over to the Old Town. Which, given it’s a bit of an uphill trek, isn’t much fun with the rucksack full of books on my back.

My destination is the Jolly Judge. It’s down an alleyway and I manage to walk past it. Meaning extra unnecessary uphill walking. That’s not fun at all.

The castle and the higher parts of the Old Town hide behind a smokescreen of mist. When I reach the top, it’s like walking into a cloud.

It’s not a huge pub, but I manage to find a seat. And am soon tucking into a pint. A middle-aged couple comes and sits next to me. I hear that they’re speaking Dutch to each other. The woman asks me: “Are you a local or another tourist?” “Ik ben ook een toerist.” I reply. We proceed to have a long conversation in Dutch. Which is pretty strange.

They’ve McEwans 70/- and 80/- on keg. I thought the shilling names were usually reserved for cask. Weird to think that those two beers used to be dead common.

I have a couple, then move on. I don’t want to be too late at the Hanging Bat. The location of tonight’s talk. It kicks off at 7pm, but I aim to get there by six. I don’t quite make that time. Doesn’t matter so much as there’s not really anything to set up.

Johnny Horn, the brewer here, recognises me as soon as I walk through the door. He thrusts a beer into my grateful hand and guides me downstairs, where all the action will happen. It’s not a huge space, with room for an audience of 20-odd. And no projector. Hence the lack of setting up.

Four William Younger beers are served as I blab:

1851 60 shilling ale (6%)
1851 80 shilling ale (7.5%)
1851 stock ale (8.5%)
1885 140 shilling ale (9.5%)

It’s a bit odd, being the only one who can see all the pretty pictures of my Powerpoint. Not much point going discussing tables of numbers in detail when no-one can see them but me. Rather surreal. I hope it hasn’t detracted too much from the magic of hearing me speak.

Allan McLean, who I’ve never met before, and Robbie Pickering, who I have, are in the audience. We have a chat. I’ll be seeing Robbie again tomorrow in Glasgow.

I only sell two books. The bag of books I lug back to the tram stop is almost as heavy as before. And there’s still a hill to climb.

I don’t stay up too late. I need to be up fairly early tomorrow to travel to Glasgow for my date at the Scottish Brewing Archive. It’s going to be a very busy day.

Buy my new Scottish book. It's why was in Scotland.

The Playfair
Omni Centre
Leith Street
Edinburgh EH1 3AJ

Jolly Judge
493 Lawnmarket,
Edinburgh EH1 2PB.

The Hanging Bat
133 Lothian Road
City of Edinburgh EH3 9AB

Monday, 12 June 2017

Milk Stout - the dregs

It's incredible how the references to Molk Stout dry up after WW II. Not that the style wasn't still brewed - it was, in fact, extremely popular.

In 1943, a search of the newspaper archives gets 233 hits for "Milk Stout". For 1945, it's just one. Let's see if we can work out why.

This court case got me wondering:

"Berwick Petty Sessions
Before the Mayor (Councillor J. Fleming), J. W. Carmichael, A. Hay, Esq., and Miss Cockburn.

James Wallace, 5, Hill Crescent, East Ord, was charged with cycling without front rear lights on 2nd February.—Fined £l.

J. and R. Tennent, Ltd., Well Park Brewery. Glasgow, were charged with giving with a certain article food, to wit, milk stout, a label calculated to mislead as to the nature, substance and quality of the said article, the stout being sold by them to A.

Middlemas and Son, Ltd., Kelso, and thereafter to a local retailer.

Mr Stanley Strugnell prosecuted. The defendants were represented by Mr C. P. Forster, solicitor, Berwick, who pleaded guilty to the charge.

Mr Strugnell explained that Mr Arlidge, Sampling Officer, had purchased a bottle labelled milk stout, whereas the bottle contained only ordinary stout.

Mr Forster maintained that the article in question was not ordinary stout as it contained a certain proportion of lactose sugar, but not the quantity of lactose which had formed a part of pre-war milk stout. The defendants had been informed by the suppliers about a month after the date of the offence that the milk stout sugar with which they were now being supplied had not the same content as previously, and immediately took steps to have the milk stout label withdrawn.

Defendants were fined £5 and costs."
The Berwick Advertiser - Thursday 17 February 1944, page 3.

The gist, as I see it, isn't that Tennent's Milk Stout didn't contain milk, but that it didn't contain enough lactose. Which was the result of a change in the sugar supplied to them. It sounds as if it's purely about quantity of lactose used. Which is the same argument as in the case a couple of decades earlier.

But a few years later, that no longer seems to be the case:

"Slips that Pass
ORIGINS WRITING in the tavernacular, a correspondent finds that there is no milk stout nowadays. Reason is that a year or so ago the word "milk" was dropped, as the Food Ministry did not like it and because no milk was used in its manufacture. It contains lactose, a form of sugar derived from whey, and was first produced in the early part of the century. Very many names in common use are misleading. Prussian Blue, popular artist's colour, orginated in this country and not Prussia. The Turkish bath, came from Russia and not Turkey, while Jordan almonds do not grow on the banks of the Jordan. The name is simply a corruption of the French "jardin," meaning garden. Brussels sprouts did not come from Brussels, and French beans did not originate in France. York ham (you've heard of it) did not come from York, it just got its name from "Y.C." a trade mark. Stilton cheese is made in Leicestershire and got its name by accident, just because the Leicestershire cheeses were picked up by the stage coach at Stilton. Irish stew Isn't Irish . . it came from Germany . . and lead pencils contain no lead . . only graphite. T. J."
Western Daily Press - Wednesday 25 May 1949, page 6.
You have to realise that during this period, when a Labour government was in power, ministries had lots of direct influence in various industries. Partly through nationalisation and partly through bureaucracy. ANd it seems that the Food Ministry, unlike magistrates before them, had decided lactose wasn't good enough to qualify as Milk Stout. Only milk itself would do.

Which leaves me wondering about the legality of the term today in reference to beer. Has that ruling been overturned in the meantime? Or is it just that no-one cares any more?

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Leaving Atlanta

No need to rise too early.  Not much to do this morning other than pack. And watch some shit TV.

My plan is simple: check out at noon, wander down street to pub, drink beer. It is pretty much my plan for every day. Eat some food. That would be a good idea, too.

Having flogged a reasonable number of books, my luggage is lighter. Most of the remaining books I load into my check-in bag. Leaving the bits I’m going to be carrying much lighter. Hooray.

I check out and leave my bags at the hotel. Then make the sort walk to Meehan’s. As you might have guessed from the name, it’s an Irish pub. But I know they have a reasonable beer selection. I was here a couple of years ago. I can’t be arsed to trek any further.

Wedging my belly betwixt bar stool and bar counter, I order a beer.

Terrapin Hopsecutioner IPA, 7.3% ABV
Pale and fairly clear. Pretty grapefruity, but not that bitter, really. A pleasant enough lunchtime beer.

Not feeling quite so knacked today. Though I’m still a bit yawny. It’s been an odd trip. Just five nights and a single event. That that did go really well.

Oh no,  there’s an advert for Golden Corral on the TV. What bad memories that recalls. Makes me literally want to vomit.

The barman just gave me a taster of Orpheus Transmigration of Souls, a Double IPA of 10%. Hides the booze very well.

They keep showing the baseball brawl from yesterday. Odd that two big strong athletes should fight like 8-year-old wimps.

I’m wondering what to eat. I’m tempted by fish and chips or shepherd’s pie. But both are more than I really want to eat. I spot a bloke along the bar tucking into tacos. Hadn’t noticed then on the menu. Looks perfect. I order them.

They’re pretty damn good. And not too heavy. My stomach is always like Andrew’s when I’m in the US.

For some reason there are Liverpool scarves behind the bar. Not from Liverpool itself, but all sorts of US Liverpool supporters’ clubs. Maybe it’s the Irish/catholic connection.

Time for another beer.

Orpheus Transmigration of Souls, 10% ABV
An Atlanta beer, evidently. Bit cloudier, this one. More of an Izal taste here – is that Citra? Or is in Simcoe? One of those weird modern hops. OK, I guess. Again, not that bitter. What’s happening to US IPA? Has it turned into a sort of fruit punch?

It’s not that busy. The staff chatting and joking with each other. Pretty friendly. I suppose it is a wet Tuesday lunchtime. Not exactly peak pub time.

Odd thing about my talk yesterday was that I got almost as many questions about music as beer.

It’s so strange when I’m “on stage”. I feel really confident, have all these jokes come into my head, can cope with anything that goes wrong, never run out of words to say. Almost like I’m a different person. Getting a whole room to laugh out loud is quite a rush I can understand why people get addicted to performing.

I’m such a lucky bastard. I get to travel all over. Meet lots of cool people. And even get some of it paid for. If only I were 20 years younger. I reckon I’ve got another ten years more of this. Then the travelling will start getting too hard. Though Mum made it to Australia when she was 74.

Just saw the Tetley sign again on the way to the bogs. God, that brings up mixed emotions.

Three pints of DIPA. That should do me for today. No expensive airport whisky necessary.

Oh no, Golden Corral on the TV again. Excuse me while I go for a puke in the bog.

Bill paid, back picked up and taxi hailed, I’m on my way to the airport through a dark and rainy Atlanta. A city I’ve still seen bugger all of, despite a couple of visits.

My bag is soon checked in and I’m breezing through security. I love having TSA pre. It save so much bother. And undressing.

I always try to eat some decent food before a transatlantic flight. Great, there’s a food court. Usually that means good value. I go to a Chinesey place and order Peking beef (no rice) and two spring rolls. It’s not really spicy, but pretty tasty. So much so, that I fetch another. It’s only $3 something a pop. Bargain.

I’ve still got some time before boarding. Why not drop by that TGI Fridays over there? I squeeze into a barstool. And order a Sweetwater 420 Extra Pale Ale. And a double bourbon.

I watch a couple of crap films, then get my head down. I manage to get a couple of hours of reasonable sleep. Not that much worse than most nights while I was away.

My bag is the third off. Great. Time to get a taxi.

Meehan's Public House Downtown
200 Peachtree Street,
GA 30303.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Let’s Brew - 1880 Barclay Perkins XX

This will be exciting for you. An old Mild recipe with more than just mild malt and Goldings. Yes, a truly thrilling change of pace.

The OG is the same as in the 1860’s, but there have been changes elsewhere. There’s sugar in addition to malt and American hops as well as English ones. Despite the use of higher alpha hops, the calculated IBUs are down. So quite a different beer.

I’m not sure exactly when the 1880 Free Mash Tun Act came into effect, but I suspect it was later than March, which is when this beer was brewed. Which would explain the absence of unmalted grain. Sugar, remember, had been allowed since 1847.

Talking of sugar, No. 1 invert is a guess. The only description of it in the log simply says: “Scotch”. Feel free to use any type you fancy. It could have been just straight sucrose, for all we know.

The hops are described as MK and American. I think my choice of varieties is about right. Though you could substitute Goldings for the Fuggles.

1880 Barclay Perkins XX Ale
pale malt 14.00 lb 86.15%
No. 1 invert sugar 2.25 lb 13.85%
Cluster 90 min 4.00 oz
Fuggles 60 mins 2.25 oz
Fuggles 30 mins 2.25 oz
OG 1079.5
FG 1027.7
ABV 6.85
Apparent attenuation 65.16%
IBU 106
Mash at 160º F
Sparge at 170º F
Boil time 90 minutes
pitching temp 59º F
Yeast Wyeast 1099 Whitbread Ale

Friday, 9 June 2017

Of All People, It Had To Happen To Tommy!

You'll be relieve no doubt that this isn't another travel report. But in despair that it's about another of my recent obsessions: Milk Stout

Or sort of. Because there's only a passing mention of Milk Stout.

"THE most popular man in the Ayrshire village of Patna is Tommy Henderson, a life-long cripple. From one week's end to another Tommy wheels his way through the village in his old hand-propelled chair. He stops to chat to the wives in the queue, or spend half-hour watching the cobbler at work.

In the evenings he goes to the bar of the Doon Hotel. He drinks only a glass of milk stout. But he's a most welcome visitor.

Friends help him on to the piano stool, and he plays and sings entertaining the company like a man without a care in the world.

Some months ago the men at the local decided it was time Tommy had a new motor-driven chair. A "swear box" was dug out. Every swear word meant a penny towards Tommy's chair.

Tommy didn't know what the swear box was for. The pennies rolled in fast.

A lot came from men who never swore in their lives. A favourite saying after putting in a penny was, "It's a darned good idea this," and in went another copper.

Last week the box was nearly full. It held about £15. It was decided to open it and see if Tommy's new chair could be bought in time for Christmas.

The good news that the box was full spread through the village. Spread, in fact, too far.

That night Doon Hotel was burgled.

In the morning Mrs Janet Dale, the proprietrix, found the till sitting on a chair. Only the coppers were left. £100 of stock was missing, including 36 bottles of whisky, 24 half-bottles, and 12 bottles of brandy.

The thieves also took a Christmas stocking containing five guineas in coppers and silver for the blind of St Dunstan's.

And — they took the swear box! To the 400 people of Patna this was the last straw. It's a disappointment that about hundred of them will have to go without their Ne'er Day half-bottle.

But it's a thousand times worse that Tommy may not get his new chair after all!"
Sunday Post - Sunday 12 December 1948, page 13.

The opening sentence sounds like one those spoof 1950's comics that you find in Viz, you know, things like Black Bag.

I'm susrprised that they had motorised wheelchairs in the 1940's. But also that there would be a burglary in such a small village. It really is a tiny place. I thought that before 1960 you could leave your doors unlocked and your windows open without having to worry about some thieving bastard having it away with all your valuables. Who would have guessed that the past wasn't the idyl it's claimed to be?

It's not a surprise that Tommy drank Milk Stout. It was a sort of invalids drink like, er, Invalid Stout before it. Watching others work. That's something I'm keen on myself. So much more fun than workingyourself.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Atlanta again

Another fairly restless night. What’s wrong? I’m usually such a good sleeper.

Mike has given me a four pack of the beers from last night’s talk. After my bad experience with beer-soaked clothes on my last US trip, I’m a bit wary of having bottles in my checked-in bag. Especially corked and caged ones.

I drink the Cotbusser and Grodziskie. Seeing the level of carbonation in them, it’s a wise choice, I feel. Both are good beers. And, not being too strong, make the perfect breakfast.

Did I mention how good a brewer Mike is? Mild, AK, Burton – he can brew all the important styles well.

Mike is giving me a lift to the airport. He’s picking me up a couple of hours early so we can drop by Sierra Nevada. It’s right next to the airport, so why not?

The Sierra Nevada complex is enormous. After passing the ornate gates monogrammed “SN”, it’s a half mile or so to the brewery itself. Which is also pretty big. As is the parking lot. And the shiny copper kettles I can glimpse through the windows. They look about the same size as those in the old Heineken brewery in Amsterdam.

The tap room, obviously, is huge. And full. We find seats in one corner. A prime spot, next to the bogs. Unfortunately, the collaboration beer with Fullers, which was on cask, is all gone. Bit of a bummer that. I have an IPA of some sort instead.

We order food and chat. Neither of us get large meals. I have some delicious pork belly. Yummee! 

I finish with a Bigfoot. Which I’ve only ever had bottled until now.

Mike drops me at Asheville airport and we say our goodbyes. It’s been great spending time with Mike again. A talented brewers and all-round good bloke.

Being a tiny airport, the formalities take next to no time. But, being a tiny airport, there’s only one bar. And all the seats at it are occupied. I go to the gate instead and read Private Eye.

Bad weather in Atlanta means nothing is allowed to take off or land. Which delays my flight by 30 to 40 minutes. No biggie for me. I’ve nothing planned this evening. And no connecting flight. Unlike most of my fellow passengers, who are looking a little nervous.

They’re asking for bump volunteers again. Starting offer is 400 Delta dollars. When they raise it to $600, a woman close to me accepts. Her daughter is a bit miffed. “I’ll have to hang around at Atlanta airport waiting for your flight.”

It’s a bigger aircraft this time. Much larger overhead bins. Though me rucksack is much lighter since I got rid of most of the books it carried.

I’m staying at a different hotel from the one on my way in. Though it’s only about 50 metres away. The lifts are really weird. One set takes you up two floors. Then you have to walk around the corner to a second set that takes you to higher floors. A bit of a pain.

I mooch around my room for a while, watching some crap TV. And a little baseball.

There’s been a spectacular fight. Giants pitcher Hunter Strickland pinged the hip of National’s Bryce Hunter with a fastball. He saw it as deliberate, ran over to the mound and tried to whallop the pitcher. Neither looked a very accomplished fighter. Like two kangaroos boxing. It ended up with all the players from both sides piling in. There are endless replays from all possible angles.

My destination this evening is Max Lager's brewpub, just a couple of hundred yards down Peachtree. They claim it’s Georgia’s oldest brewpub. Who am I to doubt them?

Bit gloomy and not very full. Maybe everyone is upstairs where there are more draughts (but a smaller food offering). Me and yet another bar make acquaintance. Soon it gets pretty intimate. As intimate as a bar and a belly can be.

What should I drink? Not another IPA. I know – a Porter.

Three Threads Porter, 5.8% ABV
Oh no, that Three Threads shit again. Nice and dark. Decent coffee/cocoa flavour. OK.

The only other people at the bar are a couple speaking Polish and a man in his mid-50’s shovelling food down while going tippy-tap on his phone. He occasionally comes up for air and orders a beer. This is fun.

The Polish couple keep staring, not exactly at me, more around me. They seem fascinated by something behind me. Presumably fellow diners. I really don’t feel like turning around and looking. Partly from my English desire to avoid any possible embarrassment. Partly because I’m totally knacked and really can’t be arsed.

I can barely force myself to knock back the beer. But I do. And a not too inspiring hamburger.

Just the one beer. And the last two bottles from Mike back in my room. The strong two, October Beer and Arctic Ale. They soon sentence me to slumbering.

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
100 Sierra Nevada Way,
NC 28732.

Max Lager's Wood-Fired Grill & Brewery
320 Peachtree St NE,
GA 30308.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Macbeth in Edinburgh

The only Scottish date in my rambling Macbeth tour is tomorrow at the Hanging Bat:

It kicks off at 19:00. And should be lots of fun. But please leave your preconceptions at the door. Some of the content of my talk may be disturbing to anyone with style nazi tendencies.

Buy my new Scottish book. It's why I'll be in Scotland.

Let’s Brew Wednesday - 1862 Barclay Perkins XXX

You know what I can never get too much of? Crazy old Mild recipes. This is another good one.

And proof – should you have doubted my word – that the term “Mild” had nothing to do with low ABV or a low hopping rate.

By the 1860s, XXX was Barclay Perkins top of the range Mild Ale. Though it wasn’t around for that much. My last spotting of it was in 1869. I’m not sure why, but, despite the style’s huge popularity, London brewers had dropped all but X Ale by 1900. Super strong Mild had, perhaps, simply gone out of fashion.

A majority of the hops were pretty fresh, but I’ve still reduced the hopping rate. Nevertheless, it ends up with well over 100 calculated IBUs. Not exactly typical for a Mild today. I’ve just guessed the hop varieties. All I know for certain is that they were English.

As for the malt, the original contained 20 of pale and 100 of white malt. So I’m sure it would have been a pretty pale beer. Probably around what BeerSmith calculated.

Not sure that there’s much else I can tell you.

1862 Barclay Perkins XXX Ale
pale malt 22.50 lb 100.00%
Goldings 75 mins 5.00 oz
Goldings 60 mins 5.00 oz
Goldings 30 mins 5.00 oz
OG 1098.6
FG 1030
ABV 9.08
Apparent attenuation 69.57%
IBU 132
Mash at 151º F
Sparge at 165º F
Boil time 75 minutes
pitching temp 60º F
Yeast Wyeast 1099 Whitbread Ale